Individual Salvation Is Not the Highest Objective

The object of Yoga is frequently couched in terms of individual salvation, liberation or freedom. Whether it is to be accomplished through an abandonment of the life of the world, or through some high divine state in another plane or another life, or in an after-life, the focus is on the individual achieving a result and leaving behind the universal manifestation. Of course, there are exceptions to this, such as the development in Mahayana Buddhist tradition of the Bodhisattva, the enlightened soul who refuses to cross over to Nirvana until every other sentient being has gained enlightenment.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us that the manifestation and the conscious awareness that supports, condones and develops it are One and thus, an individual achievement cannot be considered to be the ultimate goal: “Therefore an individual salvation in heavens beyond, careless of the earth, is not our highest objective; the liberation and self-fulfilment of others is as much our own concern,–we might almost say, our divine self-interest,–as our own liberation. Otherwise our unity with others would have no effective meaning.”

He therefore sets up three successive steps for the seeker of the integral Yoga: “To conquer the lures of egoistic existence in this world is our first victory over ourselves; to conquer the lure of individual happiness in heavens beyond is our second victory; to conquer the highest lure of escape from life and a self-absorbed bliss in the impersonal infinity is the last and greatest victory. Then are we rid of all individual exclusiveness and possessed of our entire spiritual freedom.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 18, The Soul and Its Liberation, pp. 424-425